NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The process of renaming a busy roadway that cuts across the city for one of its favorite sons is finally complete.
The New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) has replaced signage along Route 18 to reflect the city's renaming of Commercial Avenue in honor of actor/singer/activist Paul Robeson.
The city dedicated Paul Robeson Boulevard in June at a ceremony led by Mayor Jim Cahill at the corner of Baldwin Street and Robeson Boulevard. The event was held near Feaster Park, where the city plans to install a sculpture of Robeson.
At the time of the ceremony, the city announced that it had changed 18 signs along the length of the roadway to reflect the name change.
In July, NJDOT spokesperson Mairin Bellack said there were four signs along Route 18 that still needed to be changed. At the time, the NJDOT estimated that it would take up to six months to change the signs.
The renaming of the signs were part of a yearlong celebration of Robeson and his legacy in New Brunswick and Rutgers.
Robeson (1898-1976) was the third African-American student to enroll at Rutgers, and while there, was a star pupil and athlete that graduated as Valedictorian of the Class of 1919. In the years that followed, Robeson went on to achieve great fame in music, acting and culture and was a champion for social justice and a respected figure in contemporary American history.
In addition to the city renaming the street, Rutgers University–New Brunswick dedicated Paul Robeson Plaza on the university’s College Avenue campus. At the university’s 2019 Commencement, President Robert Barchi presented a replica of the 1973 doctorate of humane letters given to Robeson and hailed him as Rutgers’ most gifted and accomplished alumnus, a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, an All-American athlete, a world-renowned singer and actor, a spellbinding orator and a passionate activist and humanitarian.
Many residents or businesses who have yet to update their address from Commercial Avenue to Paul Robeson Boulevard are urged to do so soon. In mid-2020, the former Commercial Avenue addresses will no longer be recognized by the Postal Service.